Edmonton’s newest fire station will have artistic flair thanks to the work of local graphic designer Vikki Wiercinski.
The public art project, commissioned by the Edmonton Arts Council (EAC) in 2014, will be fully visible later this year upon completion of the Lewis Estates Fire Station. But curious passersby may be able to get a glance of the work before the station opens its doors.
“In Edmonton’s collection, this piece is unique because the art is completely integrated into the design of the [exterior] wall,” says Katherine Kerr, public art director at the EAC.
For Kerr, the importance of the project stems from the desire for every community in Edmonton to have accessible local public art – not just the downtown neighbourhoods – which made the design of the new fire station the perfect opportunity. “If we know that we have really good artists who can work in this particular genre – as we did with Lewis Estates – then we’ll [try to] ensure that it will go to a local artist,” she says, noting that, if the budget is small, the EAC wants as much money as possible going into the art rather than travel. “In this case, the architects we are working with are using a concrete material that makes itself available as a palette for art.”
The tiles, manufactured in Michigan, are created using a two-millimetre-deep casting mould created specifically to Wiercinski’s hand-drawn designs. The designs were applied to the mould to create tiles with intricate patterns seemingly etched into the surface.
The designs themselves – a smattering of circles, dots and interlacing lined patterns – are not unlike surface designs for which Wiercinski, who sells colourfully patterned textiles and tea towels at the City Market Downtown and the Royal Bison Craft & Art Fair, is known. However, there is one major difference.
“My portfolio really translated well to this sort of project,” says Wiercinski, whose textile work was part of the Brain Storms: UAlberta Creates exhibit put on by the University of Alberta Museums’ Gallery at Enterprise Square. “I have a really consistent look, and a consistent style, and that is definitely what they were looking for. But the thing was to show the jury that I can work in one colour, or in no colour and just shadow.” The artist played on the strengths of her motifs and ability to convey pattern and rhythm, and the results are what Lewis Estates residents will see adorning the walls of the neighbourhood’s fire hall.
But, for Wiercinski, the project means more than that. “It’s nice to leave a mark like that on a city that I have lived in my entire life, and to get that kind of opportunity at my age is pretty exciting.”